HC Deb 04 December 1969 vol 792 cc1703-14
Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House kindly state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 8TH DECEMBER—Debate on Foreign Affairs, which will be continued on Tuesday, 9th December the 4th Allotted Supply Day.

At the end on Monday, Motions on the Milk Marketing Amendment 1933 Scheme and on the Winter Keep (Scotland) Scheme.

At the end on Tuesday, Motions on the British Overseas Airways Corporation (Borrowing Powers) Order and on the Defence Powers (Continuance) Order.

WEDNESDAY, 10TH DECEMBER—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: Until 7 o'clock, a debate on Private Health Insurance, and afterwards, on the Reduction of Employment Opportunities in Scotland both on Opposition Motions.

Prayer on the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations.

THURSDAY, 11TH DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Gas Bill.

FRIDAY, 12TH DECEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 15TH DECEMBER—Debate on a Motion to take note of the White Paper Public Expenditure, 1968–69 to 1973–74, (Command No. 4234).

Motions on the Rate Support Grant (Increase) Order, the Cumberland County Council Order, and the West Riding County Council Order.

The House will wish to know that subject to progress of business it is intended to propose that we should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Friday, 19th December, until Monday, 19th January, 1970.

Mr. Heath

I thank the Leader of the House. Is he aware that, on Tuesday, the second day of the foreign affairs debate, which is a Supply day under the Opposition's control, we would wish the debate to be centred on the situation in Nigeria? Can he say to which subject the debated on Monday will be devoted?

Mr. Peart

Subject to your view, Mr. Speaker, it will be open to hon. Members catching your eye to raise such matters as they wish. However, it might be for the general convenience of the House if, on Monday, there was some concentration on Vietnam, and on Tuesday on Nigeria. However, I think that I should metion that, in opening the debate, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will want to touch on other issues as well as those two subjects. This must really be very much a matter for right hon. and hon. Members themselves.

Mr. John Mendelson

White welcoming the statement by the Leader of the Opposition this week, in contrast to his attitude last week, has it not clearly emerged that it is the wish of many hon. Members to have one clear-cut debate on Nigeria—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must allow the hon. Gentleman to say what has clearly emerged.

Mr. Mendelson

Has it not clearly emerged from the Order Paper that it is the desire of many hon. Members—and that does not exclude the opinions of other hon. Members—to have a clear-cut debate one day on Nigeria, and to devote the other day to Vietnam? Would it not be subverting the purposes of debate not to have a clear distinction between the two subjects, with one day, Monday, on Nigeria, and the second day on Vietnam, and should not the Government make certain that that is so by putting down a Motion on Vietnam for the second day of the debate?

Mr. Peart

I would have thought that my hon. Friend would have accepted my reply to the Leader of the Opposition. I thought that my reply was reasonable.

Mr. Rossi

Will the Leader of the House give time for the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity to make a statement on the dispute between the A.E.F. and the N.U.R. as to whose members should be promoted as the mechanical craftsmen of London Transport? The dispute has caused a strike which is now in its 11th week, leading to a reduction in services on the Northern Line—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman can ask for a debate, but he cannot debate it at the moment.

Mr. Rossi

It has caused a reduction in services of one-third, a break-down of escalators, and has resulted in appalling travelling conditions in London.

Mr. Fernyhough

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not an abuse that, after my right hon. Friend the First Secretary, at Question Time, has asked hon. Members to bear in mind that at this moment negotiations are taking place on this very matter, the hon. Gentleman should take advantage of a business question to make a statement of that kind?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I thought that I had conveyed that to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi). It is not in order, when asking a business question, for an hon. Member to make the points which he will make if he gets the debate that he is seeking.

The Leader of the House has been asked for a debate on the dispute.

Mr. Peart

Not next week.

Mr. James Johnson

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind the fatal—

Mr. Rossi

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not ask the Leader of the House for a debate. I asked for time to be given for a Ministerial statement.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. He asked for a statement, not a debate.

Mr. Peart

I will, of course, represent the hon. Gentleman's views to my right hon. Friend. However, I believe that hon. Members should be very cautious about what they say when there is an industrial dispute and negotiations are taking place.

Mr. James Johnson

May I now ask my right hon. Friend to bear in the mind the fatal consequences of yielding to the pressures of my hon. Friends below the Gangway to muzzle back-bench hon. Members by discussing only two subjects on Monday and Tuesday? We should be allowed to speak on whatever subjects we want, and not be confined to only two aspects of foreign affairs.

Mr. Peart

I thought that I had replied to the Leader of the Opposition on this point. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept what I said earlier to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), that I thought that what I told the right hon. Gentleman was reasonable.

Mr. Bitten

If it is the intention of the Leader of the House that we should concentrate in the foreign affairs debate primarily on Vietnam and Nigeria, will he tell the House next week when we may have a debate on our relations with Europe?

Mr. Peart

It is up to hon. Members to catch Mr. Speaker's eye and, if they wish—[Interruption.] I cannot interfere with the procedure of debate in that way. It is up to the hon. Gentleman to make his case if he so wishes.

Mr. Dickens

Is my right hon. Friend aware of Motion No. 64 in my name, supported by 120 right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House?

[That this House, having noted with approval the Government's acceptance in principle of the Services Committee's recommendations that 'provision should be made at public expense for secretarial assistance or an allowance to meet the cost up to a maximum of one full-time secretary per Member' and that 'a substantial increase in the car allowance should be granted' urges the Government to assume immediate responsibility for the salaries, National Insurance, and selective employment tax of Members' secretaries, and to make an early announcement of the revised mileage allowance.]

As four months have elapsed since the Government's acceptance in principle of the Select Committee's recommendations, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will make a statement on the matter, preferably next week?

Mr. Peart

I will endeavour to make a statement next week.

Mr. David Steel

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Government have asked for views on the report of the Scottish Royal Commission on Local Government by the end of the year? Will he seek to make arrangements for Members of Parliament to give their views in debate at least in the Scottish Grand Committee, if not on the Floor of the House, before Christmas?

Mr. Peart

I will look into this matter.

Mr. Atkinson

Is the Leader of the House aware that the conversion to decimal currency which is now taking place is having a serious effect on the cost of living and that the Government's advice in the matter is being constantly ignored? Therefore, will he rearrange the business towards the end of next week so that we may have an emergency debate on the effect of the conversion?

Mr. Peart

My answer to my hon. Friend is "No, Sir".

Mr. Amery

Reverting to the foreign affairs debate on Monday and Tuesday, while fully appreciating the desire of the House to discuss Nigeria and Biafra on one of those days, and not underrating the importance of the Vietnamese issue, will the Leader of the House confirm, after the exchanges which have taken place, that it will be in order to raise other matters, such as the Middle East and Europe, which are just as important in the eyes of many hon. Members as the other two issues?

Mr. Peart

I should think that it would be in order to do what the right hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Lawson

Referring to Wednesday's business, in view of the obvious difficulty of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to understand the plain facts and figures of Scotland's extraordinary recovery, will my right hon. Friend endeavour to persuade the Leader of the Opposition to devote a full day to discussing this subject instead of half a day?

Mr. Peart

This is a Supply day and the Opposition, quite rightly, have chosen two subjects. It is for the Opposition to decide. I cannot go beyond that.

Mr. Scott

In view of the widespread feeling in the country and in the House on nurses' pay, cannot the Leader of the House offer us at least a statement, if not a debate, next week on this vital subject?

Mr. Peart

I will refer this to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Prentice

In view of the importance of the debate on public expenditure on Monday week, will my right hon. Friend consider whether this should be a two-day debate? If this is difficult in terms of Government time, will he consult the Opposition with a view to seeing whether they will sacrifice a Supply day so as to have a two-day debate?

Mr. Peart

This is difficult, because I conceded a debate on another matter. I hope that my right hon. Friend will understand.

Mr. David Mitchell

Will time be found for a statement by the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity on the disastrous situation at Tilbury and in the London docks?

Mr. Peart

As soon as my right hon. Friend is ready to make a statement she will. I recognise the importance of this matter.

Mr. Winnick

Obviously, right hon. and hon. Members will want to raise various items on Monday and Tuesday, but will my right hon. Friend accept that for many weeks hon. Members have been pressing him for a debate on Vietnam? Is he aware of Motion 39, signed by 90 of my right hon. and hon. Friends?

[That this House, deeply disturbed at the allegations of mass murder committed by United States troops in a Vietnam village, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to express to the United States Government the deep concern which exists in this country at these reports.]

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend should not ask me to repeat myself. I gave a clear reply on this matter to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Peter Walker

Will the Leader of the House carefully consider making time available for a statement on Tilbury in view of a report that yet another firm has decided to leave Tilbury?

Mr. Peart

I agree. I thought that I gave a sympathetic reply to the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell).

Mr. Roebuck

Referring to the foreign affairs debate, is my right hon. Friend aware that I have been waiting, since his promise of last July, to hear from the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office about the situation with regard to the Greek Army's rôle in N.A.T.O.? Can he assure the House that his right hon. Friend will come to the House on Monday or Tuesday to give us his assessment of the position?

Mr. Peart

I will convey the opinions of my hon. Friend, but I cannot promise that my right hon. Friend will refer to his contribution.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Will the Leader of the House consider finding time for a debate on the White Paper on Civil Air Transport?

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise a debate before Christmas.

Mr. Frank AUaun

May I remind the Leader of the House that the last time we had a two-day debate on foreign affairs was August, 1968, when one day was clearly devoted to Czechoslovakia and the other to Nigeria? I think that my right hon. Friend must admit that it will lead to tremendous confusion if these and other subjects are dealt with on a "Cook's tour". Is my right hon Friend aware that 140 right hon. and hon. Members have put down their names to a Motion on Nigeria?

[That this House, in the name of humanity and realism, calls for a change in Government policy over the Nigerian civil war, which after two-and-a-half years cannot now be won by either side; and urges Her Majesty's Government to press through the Security Council of the United Nations for an immediate and total embargo on the supply of arms to either side.]

Both Nigeria and Vietnam deserve not only discussion but, if the Government fail to make advances, if necessary, a vote. Right hon. and hon. Members will be put in great difficulty if this is denied to them.

Mr. Peart

I think that my advice to the House is right. I have examined this matter—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not enough."] I must consider other hon. Members. If my hon. Friend catches Mr. Speaker's eye he will be able to make a contribution to the debate.

Mr. Heath

If it would help the Leader of the House, we on this side would be prepared to accept from the Prime Minister on Monday a statement on Europe on which the House could cross-examine him so that he could afterwards devote his speech to Vietnam and to the debate in his party on that subject.

Mr. Peart

I think that it would be right for my right hon. Friend, in opening the debate, to touch on the whole canvas of foreign affairs.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

It has been evident for a long time that the House should urgently debate both Nigeria and Vietnam and that we shall get no satisfaction on either of those matters unless the whole time is devoted to them. But is it not also equally urgently important that there should be a debate on the Middle East, where the situation is very dangerous? If the House gets its priorities right, should not the Leader of the House give us another day?

Mr. Peart

My right hon. Friend wishes me to suggest another day for debate apart from the two-day debate— [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I think that my hon. Friends who have pressed me for a two-day debate should be satisfied at this stage.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the Leader of the House aware that whilst in no way wishing to limit the matters which may be raised in the two-day foreign affairs debate, there are many hon. Members in all quarters who, particularly on the issues of Nigeria and Vietnam, would like to be able to express their opinions in a vote? Surely this is not beyond the wit of the right hon. Gentleman to arrange?

Mr. Peart

I hope that the Leader of the Liberal Party will carefully examine what I said when I made my first statement on this matter in reply to a question. I think that he must be sensible.

Mr. Sheldon

I should like to press my right hon. Friend about having a two-day debate on public expenditure. This really is of extreme importance. We have created a new method of examining how we are spending the vast sums of money which the Government raise. Surely this is worthy of a two-day debate.

Mr. Peart

It is an important matter, but I am pressed for time.

Dame Irene Ward

To help both sides, will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he can tell us what his instructions to his two representatives on the Burnham Committee are? I want to know whether it is the Chancellor who is conducting the negotiations or the Secretary of State for Education and Science. If he could tell us what his instructions are we should then know how the Chancellor of the Exchequer was playing the hand and whether the Secretary of State is in favour of the teachers.

Mr. Peart

Much as I like the hon. Lady, I must say, in view of the delicacy of the matters affecting the Burnham Committee, that I do not think that her suggestion is very helpful.

Mr. Molloy

In view of the serious crisis arising in the nursing profession, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate in the House on the pay of nurses before we rise for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Peart

I cannot promise a debate, but I will represent to my right hon. Friend the feeling of many hon. Members on both sides.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance, and in view of the statement by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that on a Supply day we are debating Nigeria, may I ask him to make it clear that the Prime Minister will open the debate on Monday, and that on Tuesday the Foreign Secretary will deal in detail with the Nigerian situation?

Mr. Peart

I cannot at this stage be committed to the order of the debate, but I said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would open the debate. I expect my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to intervene on Tuesday.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is it not a fact that the manner in which the two-day foreign affairs debate has been arranged means that the Government will not have an opportunity of knowing the opinion of the House on the question of Vietnam? Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the position? Might it not be to the advantage of the Government to know the opinion of the House?

Mr. Peart

I hope that my hon. Friend will not think that I am as naive as that. I know his views, and those of many other hon. Members.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Opposition have a Supply day next Tuesday, and that we have chosen to concentrate on Nigeria. Will he convey to his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that we shall expect a detailed reply from him on this subject?

Mr. Peart

I shall, of course, do that. I thought that I had said so.

Mr. Albu

In view of the radical and welcome improvement in the method of presentation of public expenditure, which is published today, will my right hon. Friend reconsider his decision about the number of days allocated for debate and accept the Select Committee's recommendation for a two-day debate on public expenditure?

Mr. Peart

I have noted the point, but I cannot go beyond my earlier reply.

Mr. John Page

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement before we rise for the Christmas Recess on how a written record of the unveiling of the Churchill statue, including the words of Mr. Speaker on that occasion, can be made available to hon. Members?

Mr. Peart

I shall consider that. If it is possible, we should have a written record.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

I heard my right hon. Friend say, "I am pressed for time". Although the Government are pressed for time, there are many vital issues which will not be discussed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only one question at Business Question time.

Mr. Tuck

I am coming to it, Mr. Speaker. As Vietnam, Nigeria, Europe, the Middle East, public expenditure, and other matters are not to be debated, and as we are apparently having no fewer than 31 days' Recess, would it not be a good idea to extend the term for a couple of days before Christmas, and come back three or four days earlier than intended, so that we can have time to debate all these vital matters?

Mr. Peart

My hon. Friend can no doubt participate in the debate when I move the Motion for the Adjournment of the House for the Christmas Recess. I think that a good holiday is good for a lot of people.

Sir Edward Boyle

Is it not highly desirable that there should be a two-day debate on public expenditure? Is it not clear that many hon. Members will wish to raise not only priorities, but also machinery for controlling Government expenditure, and how we can get the best value for money?

Mr. Peart

I accept that. I suggested earlier that possibly one day, later, we could have a debate on the structure of Select Committees and matters like those mentioned in the report. I cannot go beyond what I said earlier.

Mr. Bidwell

Will my right hon. Friend think more deeply about having two separate days for the foreign affairs debate on the specific items of Vietnam and Nigeria? If we roam all over the world, are we not in danger of going on for ever because some Members are happy about some aspects of the Government's handling of foreign affairs, but not about others? If we all vote against the Adjournment of the House we shall end up in a shambles.

Mr. John Mendelson

So will the Government.

Mr. Peart

I hope that my hon. Friend will study what I said earlier. I cannot go beyond that.

Mr. R. Carr

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government expect to publish next week their new White Paper on prices and incomes policy, and whether the First Secretary of State will accompany the publication with a statement to the House?

Mr. Peart

I am not sure about a statement, but I shall represent the right hon. Gentleman's views to my right hon. Friend.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only one business question from any right hon. or hon. Member.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

In view of the obvious importance of Professor Swann's report on antibiotics, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there will be a debate on it before Christmas? If not, will he say how soon we can have one?

Mr. Peart

Not before Christmas.

Mr. McMaster

May I press the right hon. Gentleman for a statement before Christmas on the continued ban on the operation of container facilities at Tilbury, so that hon. Members on both sides can express concern about the great damage that this is doing to the country's export efforts?

Mr. Peart

I have already answered that question.

Mr. Onslow

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the need to have a half-day debate soon, in Government time, on the report on the recent outbreaks of rabies?

Mr. Peart

I know that this is of concern to the general public, but I cannot promise a debate.